‘SA needs camp to assess undocumented immigrants’

The creation of refugee camps is an answer to resolving the niggling immigration difficulties, such as the documentation of foreign nationals in South Africa.

Azanian People’s Organisation (Azapo) president, Nelvis Qekema, revealed this in an exclusive interview with Sunday World this week.

Qekema said the idea would form part of their manifesto to be unveiled in March as they prepare for the upcoming general elections scheduled for May 29.

He added that those assigned to manage the running of the refugee camps must, in collaboration, include the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and the African Union (AU). The AU consists of 55 African member states, including South Africa.

 The Azapo leader said a refugee camp or camps should be the first port of call for all illegal immigrants entering the country, “so that they are all legally processed according to their peculiar needs”.

He added it would be at that stage of the process that a decision about whether immigrants were granted the right to stay or not would have to be taken.

Qekema said the question to be satisfied is whether they are economic migrants or refugees escaping wars in their countries.

“No immigrant or refugee must walk straight into the country without first being thoroughly processed or vetted, and the place suitable for that purpose should be a refugee camp. The notion of South Africa seeing itself as an open society should be debunked because this might have “unintended consequences”.

 “For all we care to know, if this were to be our approach, the country could be opening a free pass to people who might be hellbent on causing harm to South Africans.

“How do you detect a dangerous member of the ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), if your borders are so porous that it is an open season for every illegal immigrant to enter the country undetected,” Qekema asked. In the case of assessing undocumented African immigrants, Qekema stated that “we are not anti-African”.

He further said Azapo would caution against the pervasive open border mentality, which he said was fraught with difficulties and dangers.

 He said South Africa must, in any case, be first concerned about the welfare of South Africans above that of immigrants.

 “We are committed to a boundaryless type of Africa to reverse partitions created by imperialist forces and colonialism.

“There is a need for Africans in Africa to remove visa strictures that make it difficult for cooperation among African brothers and sisters in many parts of Africa. However, history has caused everyone to move on, and the idea of nation-states is our reality, which we must embrace and learn to live with,” he said.

Qekema also said the United Nations must lead the way in developing a legal framework to make it easy for Africans to improve trade relations across
African borders.

 He said South Africa, by comparison, was an advanced and developed country, so it is understandable that it has the propensity to attract immigrants. But he also argued that the country has huge socio-economic challenges of its own, including youth unemployment.

“Imagine what would happen if we were to [habitually] employ a person from Zimbabwe over a South African?

“We need to develop policies and implement them, particularly immigration policies. But Azapo maintains we need to seal borders for illegal foreigners. If there was one job available in the market, we must not be hesitant to give it to a South African, and not a foreign national,” he said.

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